OPINION: TikTok rumors of thrift shop gentrification are misleading

Consumers should purchase clothing items from thrift stores without the concern that they are taking away from low-income communities. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

As environmental concerns become more relevant and consumers search for sustainable options within the fashion industry, thrift shopping has become a socially acceptable alternative to fast fashion. It has become so popularized that “thrifters plan to buy two times the amount of used clothes over the next five years,” according to Raymond James and Associates, an independent investment bank that researches economic trends. 

There are many positive environmental and ethical aspects of bringing thrift shopping into the mainstream, yet many TikTok users have begun to spread rumors about the gentrification of thrift shops in low-income areas. 

In 2018, 6 percent of the average closet was secondhand clothing, which is double what it was in 2008, according to GlobalData Marketing Sizing and Growth Estimates, an organization that works to guide companies on economic trends.

Yet, thrift stores experience an overflow of donated products even with a current surge in thrift shopping. 

One of the TikTok users’ concerns is the allegation that this increase in thrift shopping has forced stores to raise their prices. In actuality, there is no evidence that middle and upper-class consumers shopping at thrift stores in disadvantaged areas cause a price increase. 

The only evidence of change in the form of pricing is Goodwill’s new 2020 “Valuation Guide,” which Goodwill donation centers use to price their product. Instead of having a set price for certain articles of clothing, the thrift store chain now prices clothes based on how they were priced originally. This still does not increase prices on average. 

Even though some stores gain a profit, thrift stores can only give IRS deduction receipts if they are a nonprofit organization, which, again, gives owners no reason to increase prices. 

One TikTok user took to Reddit under the username vintagehappens to share their misfortune with the misinformation spread through TikTok. She received angry comments on TikTok after sharing a video of her reselling thrifted clothes on the online thrift store Depop. 

I got comments attacking me, saying that what I was doing was gentrification of thrift stores, attacking my weight, etc,” the user said. “I honestly just made [my TikTok account] to gain visits to my shop.”

The truth is that thrift shop gentrification is the complete opposite of the current state of the thrift shop community. Overflow of product is a common occurrence at donation locations, forcing many store owners to throw away perfectly good clothing. 

In 2012, 84 percent of all clothing that was donated to thrift stores and donation centers ended up incinerated or in a dump, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This is 400 million pounds in New York City alone. 

Low-income areas, such as North Tampa and Temple Terrace, actually benefit from the growing trend of thrift shopping. Not only do the new consumers decrease the amount of product that is thrown away, but they also boost the economy around them.

Since prices virtually stay the same, the more shopping done, the better. The more shoppers purchase a $3 t-shirt, the more money thrift store owners have to put back into the local economy or the charitable organization that they support. 

One in every 3 Generation Z members bought secondhand products in 2019, according to online resale company ThredUp’s 2019 resale report. College-aged people are leading the new world of sustainable fashion. They should be able to continue this entirely beneficial form of shopping without the concern that they are taking away from the less fortunate.